« Outdoors Live

blind hunter takes a buck

by Doug Leier

Here's the blindmarksmen Carey McWilliams and he updates us of his success in the field and across the nationhere's his website: http://www.careymcwilliams.com/  the first totally blind CCW holder in the USA


Entering the darkened city limits of Bismarck North Dakota on a wave of powdery snow, I and the man who came to film a documentary piece about my outdoor asperations as a totally blind hunter for a big coastal production company pulled into a local hotel well after midnight to catch a few zees, before heading afield to hunt some whitetail down in the river beds. With six hunters already hitting the field without result, I had only a slim hope at breaking the cycle. A number of phone calls to my guide and the three of us rendezvoused at a local truck stop just outside of town, taking one truck into the frozen waists of farmsteads friendly to hunters. However, with potential viewership in the millions for this broadcast, I felt pressure to take something, anything. Still, I held out hope that Bambi wouldn’t make an appearance to tarnish my big buck hunter reputation. I knew that the hunt in Nevada for the mountain lion in February was the focus of the segment he had come to shoot, but I nevertheless felt trapped by the need to get deer where none was reported to be. The bustle of humanity seeking the employment that the Oil Patch offered, along with two bad winters in a row, had largely taken my hopes of getting the shot.

That next morning, after a quick fast-food breakfast, we headed out for both the restricted areas around the local refinery and the state penitentiary grounds. Still, the field cameras only revealed does, and small ones at that. Bucks seemed to be learning how to become invisible.

We settled for a farmstead between, squeezing into the plastic housing of a former outhouse converted into a ground blind with tinted windows all around. The commode had been removed along with the smell, to be replaced by a small propane heater to take the chill out of the air. This we most willing used, the film producer, my guide from the club that helped disabled hunters head afield, and I, the star of the show apparently, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with crossbow loaded for instant action.

Well, as you might expect, nothing appeared, but the first rays of dawn that glinted off the newly-fallen snow. In the cold of -20, I could have cared less about its beauty, but the producer who bounced back and forth from east to west coast offices in New York and Los Angelis instantly began filming to start capturing background, or so he explained. We had a hard time keeping him from exiting the blind in order to capture the scenery from various angles, flushing whatever small chance we had at seeing deer directly down the toilet that this plastic shack no longer had.

I knew that we had so much more to do back at home with my documentation, awards, and the like that I couldn’t spend too much time sitting in the Artic wind and hoping for deer to materialize from the frosty air. But a pheasant seemed to have his complete attention. I did have a license in my pocket and my guide knew it. So when that bird exploded unexpectedly in front of the camera, the producer jumped, as I smiled next to the crossbow abruptly emptied of its deadly broad head. At least the shoot wasn't going to be for not.

But other than this one heavy rooster that would be hanging by my hand for the cameras; the black hood I always wore for such cold hunts dangling from the other, no deer appeared. Oh their were the shadows of deer—does that had no intention on doing anything, but pace back and forth along the treelike no less than a quarter-mile away. Depressing to say the least.

However, with a little more than an hour before the deer were to bed down for the day, we loaded up the truck and headed into more restricted areas near the oil refinery, passing gates made of a material capable of withstanding the impact of an eighteen-wheeler, able to shred the vehicle not unlike a slice of cheese through a grader. What protective measures. This place was built like a fortress with security measures run under Homeland Security. It was a place where gas and other petroleum products were made for the rest of the country. To get in, I had to register, producing my one lone non-driver driver’s license. Way out of date was the photo, taken at age 17 with me having already seen 40. And yet, the card possessed no expiration date, therefore forever legal.

So passing through all barriers, we came to the banks of the Missouri, its thinly-crusted surface uncut by the strong current beneath. But we weren’t ice fishing. We were hunting. And so we unloaded gear for a better-built blind, whose frame just screamed access for the disabled with ramps and wide doors. Every hunter and his or her deer papered the walls with pictures, telling the story of the blind itself without a word. Still, moisture had warped some, which showed just how long that structure had stood, first built by boy scouts, who were now men. One face was mine, hunting here for a buck of 90-dagree days. That Indian summer was nothing like this, as we started the heater to take the chill out of the air and get set-up. So Settling back down, we restarted the hunt as the sun climbed up, and up, and up in the east.

The ringing of a timed feeder pouring grain to bait the deer chimed the six-o’clock hour. It was now or never. Still, nothing.

I was beginning to think maybe tonight when the snow began to crunch with outside movement. Bodies moved slowly in my facial vision, sound waves bouncing off each tense face and angled shoulder. Each restrained thud of a knee or foot on the wood paneling had the same softness of a thunderclap to my perked senses, as I could gather that something was around in the frozen wastes. Oh yaw, something was out there, I deduced from the increasing heaviness of breaths being taken around me.

Suddenly, there came the exciting, yet unwelcomed, screech of fingers struggling to open the ice-sealed window before me. At the same time, I slowly raised the crossbow’s rifle stock to my shoulder as cold air hit my face. Part of the trick hunting as a blind person is moving in the minefield of what would be everyday obstacles without doing the usual bumping and rattling. Because if you do? Bang! Instant empty tag.

I held my breath as whatever it was, a deer certainly, but buck doe or fawn I didn’t know, stopped at the intruding movement. Hands touched my shoulders to direct through pressure and I swung with them, the crossbow in both hands propped upon the windowsill as a makeshift rest.

“Fire,” came the whisper and it let out my pent-up breath in a quiet sigh, my finger squeezing with the letting out of air. I can’t explain it, but the shot felt right in a whack, smack and a rush of hissing scrambling footfalls fled away to the left and out of the window frame.

Words came up in a whispering clamber, as I learned for the first time what I had been aiming at. Apparently, my guide, having learned the lesson, or so he said, of announcing the presence of something that would bring on buck fever, finally told me that the seventh hunt out here, me, had just downed a big eight-pointer, the first they had seen in this area. Congratulations went all around as we waited 45-minutes to be sure the buck was down. Wouldn’t look so good to have one or more of us on film playing rodeo clowns, as we tried to keep from being bludgeoned to death by the injured stag.

The producer asked if I could tell by sound where I had hit the deer. I thought about it a moment, and said that I figured high behind the left shoulder, pointing to the spot where the sound had come from.

We stepped out as a group and walked to the downed deer, only 60-yards away. My guide let me ahead. It was the club’s policy to let the hunter touch their deer first. I knelt to count the points and checked where the hole that my arrow made in the hide. Right where I said it was to the amazement of my companions. Magic tricks, which I’m sure, became part of the story. I could see it. Blind hunter tells by sound just where he hit his buck.